Dear Public, From Teachers

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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Hey world, it’s me, a teacher. Remember us teachers? Remember when just 3 months ago you were calling us, “heroes” and saying things like, “teachers should get paid millions of dollars every day?!” Yes, believe it or not teachers today are those same teachers. But, you aren’t saying those things anymore…

I need our country, our politicians, our media, our parents, our school districts, our administrators, etc, to understand how it feels to be a teacher right now. Never in my life have I been so stressed out, anxious, and sad as a teacher. I have never felt so frustrated and undervalued. Every teacher or school staff member that I talk to, which is over 12,000 on Instagram, feels the same way. No matter if they have been told they are going back to school, staying at home, or haven’t been told anything yet. We are all stressed and taking on the emotional burden of this national debate. We can’t sleep through the night. Those back-to-school nightmares keep coming (which we do have every year to be fair, but these take on a whole new meaning right now).

“But children hardly ever get the virus!”

I do want to acknowledge my privilege here. There are many people in this country and around the world that feel undervalued on a much deeper level every day for simply existing as they are, and I would never want to minimize that pain or compare mine to it.

Even a few children dying from the virus is not ok with teachers (even if it is ok with Betsy DeVos). We do not want any of our students or our students’ families dying or getting gravely ill. There are possible life-long health consequences of this disease that no one fully understands yet.

Second of all, children are not the only people in schools. So when you say, “but children hardly ever get the virus” the omission of the number of teachers that could die from COVID-19 is noticeable. What we hear is, “at least our children can’t die from this. We don’t care if teachers die. Teachers can be replaced”. It hurts to know my life means nothing to the politicians, media, and some parents out there. It hurts that the life of my family means nothing to you. This is what I mean when I say I have never felt so undervalued in my life – to hear on national television that my life doesn’t matter to so many people.

“Teachers are lazy. They just don’t want to work. They shouldn’t get paid until they are back in school. We should cut funding for schools that don’t reopen.”

Funny…. I don’t remember being called lazy when parents were finally realizing what it takes to educate their children. To anyone saying this, have you ever spent time in a classroom besides your child’s class parties? My husband came to my classroom and spent 5 minutes in the room before saying, “I understand why you are so tired all the time now!”

Teachers WANT to be back in schools. You think teaching on a computer is easy?! NO! It means changing everything that we have ever been doing. That takes a lot of time and effort and thoughtful planning. All throughout the spring, teachers were heard saying, “this is the hardest I have ever worked!” Teachers WANT to go back to normal. Desperately.

We want to hear the laughs and give hugs and actually see our students progressing in their work. Similarly, we want to see what is working and what isn’t working for our individual students so we can best support them. We want to comfort them when they are struggling and cheer them on when they are succeeding. Nothing about remote learning is easy. But do you know what’s a lot harder? Teaching while on a ventilator or teaching from six feet under.

As for not paying teachers until they are back in schools, do you realize that right now every teacher is working or planning on how they can possibly make next year work and not getting paid for that? Teachers are always giving up their free time to make things work best for our students. We don’t half-ass something just because we won’t get paid for it… we even spend much of our own money to make our classrooms be the kinds of spaces we want our students to learn in.

Cutting funding for schools that don’t reopen? Do you know who that will hurt the most? Not the wealthy school districts that’s for sure. The school districts with a majority of students of color, who are already disproportionately affected by education and the coronavirus pandemic. Schools need more funding now than ever – in order to bring students and staff safely back to school, schools need funding for PPE and to have the staffing and spacing to spread students out. In order to effectively do remote learning, schools also need funding. Schools need money to support families with technology and internet access, since our government won’t support families with this.

“But remote learning was terrible!”

Schools closed suddenly in March. For some, it was without any warning for families or teachers. Students and staff went home on that Thursday and got a call not to return. Teachers didn’t have materials they needed at home and neither did students. This was an emergency school closure. Within a moment’s notice, teachers were asked to immediately change everything they have ever known and done. Teachers and schools worked insanely hard to get remote learning up and running. We tried some things that worked, and we tried some things that didn’t work.

We all agree that remote learning was terrible in the spring. But that doesn’t mean it will be terrible in the fall! With the proper time to plan, remote learning can be a lot more effective than it was in the spring! Changing the entire way a system operates takes time and we have to let schools and teachers try strategies, reflect, and learn from mistakes and failings. I have been teaching summer school remotely in a much different way than I taught in the spring. I was able to use what I learned from the spring to make it better and I spent two weeks of my summer vacation to plan effectively for a much more successful remote teaching.

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I’m all about the paper planning at school, but for remote learning and for summer school, google has been my best friend. It’s nothing fancy but it helps guide my thinking and I love that I can link to everything I will need that week. The green means I have already recorded those lessons for the week! Look at me go 🤣🤣 👇Are you team paper or team digital when it comes to planning? 👇 • • • • #summerschool #summerschool2020 #remotesummerschool #kindergartensummerschool #iteachk #teachertips #teachingtips #gsuiteforeducation #googleforteachers #googleteacher #technologyforteachers #teachingwithtechnology #digitalteacher #remoteteaching #teachingathome #distanceteaching

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“The experts say that children should go back to school for their mental health. Children need socialization.”

Which experts? Because every news piece or article I’ve seen quoting an expert has yet to include a teacher’s perspective on all of this. Even our school districts, school committees, and state and federal governments making these decisions are making them without consulting educators. Yes, children should be in school and children do need socialization. But all of those studies and facts are based on normal classrooms.

We are not going back to normal. We are asking students to sit in desks far apart from their peers all day long. Adults can’t even do that, how is it fair to ask a child to that? Forget hands-on learning and all the strategies that teachers know to be best practices. Teachers are being asked to regress to decades-old teaching practices of standing in-front of the room and speaking at the children for hours on end. None of us want to teach that way.

I know that the week that school closed down, I spent so much time talking about handwashing, reminding students not to touch their faces, to wash their hands over and over and over again, I’m not sure how much teaching actually got accomplished! Also, I was incredibly stressed and anxious about bringing the virus home with him. I felt so dirty – I had to immediately throw the clothes I was wearing in the wash, shower, and disinfect my phone. My headspace was definitely not in a good place for effective teaching.

I would argue that with all the restrictions and guidelines to keep everyone safe, the teaching will be less effective than remote teaching and will be more traumatic to students. It’s like dangling a cookie in-front of them and saying, “don’t eat it!” I also worry about how our youngest students, students new to schools, and students with special needs will react to adults they don’t know, covered head to toe in protective gear, faces covered behind masks… it sounds traumatizing to me. However, please don’t read this as a teacher who doesn’t want these protective measures. I want whatever will keep me, my family, and my students safe! I am trying to say that going back to school may not be the best for anyone’s mental health, despite what the “experts” say.

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I tried to stay in a bubble and not think about the fall. But then the state and my district sent out plans. Then we had meetings. And all I want to shout is anyone actually thinking about the whole child here!? Or is a child just an inconvenience to the current economy? If you haven’t ever met an incoming kindergartener, let me introduce you. This child is nervous and worried. They don’t want to leave their family (especially not now they’ve been home with them for 6 months). They don’t know the adults around them or their peers. They are excited and curious. They want to explore their space and play with their friends. This means touching and sharing everything. They learn by doing and trying and playing. All in about 15 min chunks, if that. Now let me ask- is it fair to ask this child to go to a building with people they’ve never seen before who all have masks on their face? Scary! (No the solution is not wearing masks- because safety.) and now you’re going to ask them to sit at a desk all day when they barely hold it together for a full day as it is? And then you’re going to firmly tell them over and over and over again to not touch anything. To wash their hands. Keep their mask on. Do you know how many reminders we give new kindergarteners about expectations normally?? I can’t speak when I get home I’m so tired from non-stop talking. Now these demands are going to be all about health and safety and not about building community, expectations, and relationships. I was told today at my meeting that if we had solutions, they would be more than happy to hear them. But I don’t have a solution here. And I hate being such a negative teacher right now- I normally would love to be told to think outside the box and try things. But in this case, I want the best for my students. I want them to love school. I want them to be excited to come to school. I want them to explore and lead their own learning. With the new restrictions, I worry it will be really damaging to their school experience and their social-emotional well being. So do I have solutions? Not one. This sucks. But I know that in-person learning is not fair to the whole child.

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“We need to prioritize schools! Schools are vital to our economy!”

The people arguing this have not ever prioritized schools before. If schools were prioritized, they would have already had the adequate funding they needed. As a country, when responding to this pandemic, we have not prioritized schools. We have prioritized businesses and we opened up too-quickly.

Now our cases are higher than ever, and experts are saying the only way to gain back control again is for another shut down. We have to open slowly and cautiously in order to prioritize the opening of schools, the same way every other nation who went back to schools has done. If we want schools to be open, then we also need the robust testing system that most other nations have figured out. If we can support the testing of our star athletes, then we can also prioritize testing for schools. It is unfair and unsafe to ask school systems to open up, without having a procedure for testing and contact-tracing.

Conclusion

I know that as teachers, we are constantly trying to make things work for our students, and we will continue to do that. Here are some ways that I’ve thought about making it work for my kindergarteners.

But at the end of the day, teachers need our society and the people making decisions for schools to ask themselves, “does this plan include the risk of students or staff dying?” The acceptable numbers of deaths is zero. Teachers cannot wait to return to school and be with their students in person, when it is safe to do so.

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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